I wrote a piece on Tsitsipas for theslicetennis.com
A shortened version appears there, but here is the full text.

Stefanos Tsitsipas:  Best of the Next Gen?

Stefanos Tsitsipas has been ripping it up this summer, rising into the ATP top 15 after making the final of the Canadian Open, aka Rogers Cup in Toronto, beating four top-ten players along the way.  But he started the year in mid-pack of the burgeoning crop of Next Gen players, with a ranking of 91.  This exciting young cohort includes 19 year-olds Denis Shapovalov and Alex de Minaur, 20 year-olds Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, and Andrey Rublev, as well as Felix Auger-Aliassime, the first 18-year old to make the radar.  A whisker older are Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric, and Jared Donaldson at 21.

Zverev has been the cream of the crop, claiming three Masters 1000 titles and the world #3 ranking.  He’s also the first of this generation to meet the 100-50-10 metric for predicting future greatness.  This metric for male players tallies his ranking at or near his 18th, 19th, and 20th birthdays.  To meet the standard he should be ranked about 100 on his 18th (not every player meets this criterion, but the other two are mandatory), ranked about 50 on his 19th birthday, and 10 on his 20th birthday or shortly thereafter.

Predicting Greatness

Every top player with 4 slams or a multi-year #1 ranking since Borg (the earliest player for which we have rankings), meets the criteria:  Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander, Edberg, Becker, Agassi, Courier, Sampras, Hewitt, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.  Some beat the standard by a year or two, like Becker, Agassi, and Nadal.  A few other notable slam winners also meet the standard:   Chang, Safin, Roddick, Murray, and Del Potro.  The most successful players who didn’t meet the standard are Kuerten and Wawrinka.  Both blossomed late and never really became dominant. There are only four players who met the standard but didn’t go on to become slam winners:  Jimmy Arias, Aaron Krickstein, Kent Carlsson, and Andrei Medvedev, all in the 80’s or early 90’s.

Zverev is the 23rd player to match the metric.  Odds are we are looking at a future slam winner and/or multi-year #1.  What he’s achieved at his age is typical of the very best.

The two Canadian youngsters, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, are also on track to greatness.  Shaps was #45 on his 19th birthday in April, and Felix is #120 and celebrated his 18th birthday last week.  Will they falter like Berdych and Gasquet who both met the first two legs of the standard but were a year late getting to #10, or will they become slam winners? 

So where does Tsitsipas fall?  He was #328 on his 18th birthday and was about a year late, getting close to #100 about a month after his 19th birthday.  He was about two-thirds of a year late getting to #50, and now he’s #15 on his 20th birthday.  If he should make #10 in the next three months he could still be on the path to greatness, although to be fair, till now he has not been meeting the standard laid down by past greats.

His year so far

But rules are made to be broken, and I like what he’s been doing this year.  In his first tournament of the year, Stefanos won four matches out of qualifying to make the quarter-finals in Qatar.  By March he’d made the quarters in Dubai.  That month he played his last Challenger for the foreseeable future.  In April he announced his name to the world by storming through Barcelona, knocking out four top-ten seeds, including then world #7, Dominic Thiem.  He arrived in the final and got thrashed by Nadal -2 and -1, and called it a good learning experience.

He then made the semis in Estoril and won his first main-draw slam match, at Roland Garros.  He upped the ante at Wimbledon by making the fourth round on what he calls his favourite surface.  Next he made the semis at the 500 in Washington, taking out Goffin.  But nothing prepared me for his run to the final of the 1000 in Canada.  He took out four top-ten players including Thiem, Djokovic, Zverev, and Anderson.

Again, he met Nadal in the final, but this time he put up much stiffer resistance and got to set-point in the second set.  But Nadal dug deep and ended it 6-2, 7-6.  Afterwards Nadal called Tsitsipas’s game “complex,” which has be considered high praise.  The kid is only getting better and he just turned 20 the day of the final.

His game

Stefanos has an impressive game, with a powerful, point-ending forehand, a decent serve that will only improve as he fills into his (so far) 6’4” frame, and no real weaknesses elsewhere in his arsenal.  He’s rangy and quick.  But his greatest gift might be his mind.  He stays calm under pressure.  He’s already learning to control his errors unlike many of his young peers, and he knows how to mix it up.  He’s made insightful comments about how intelligently Federer mixes up shot selection.

Intelligent choice has been part of Stef’s legacy.  Some of the media have attempted to nickname him Tennis’ Greek Freak (after basketball star, Antetokounmpo) or Tsitsi Fly, but he claims his nickname is ‘Stef.’  Stefanos’ father Apostolos is a tennis coach.  His mother was a top-ranked Soviet player, and her father was an Olympic gold-medalist in soccer in 1956.  His parents met at a tennis tournament at which she was a player and he was a line judge.  Apostolos became a certified coach and taught his son the game.

In an interview with Ubitennis, his father repeatedly stressed that it was Stefanos making the choices about his career.  Apostolos sees his role as supplying his son with as many tools as possible so that when the point of decision comes, he can choose wisely. 

Said Apostolos:  “I am aware of how complicated it is to push someone from a psychological point of view.  We can inspire children, motivate them, let them see the possibilities.  But we cannot make the decisions for them.”  “Children have great ability to explore and understand, but if one destroys this plasticity it is the end.  Children need to be free to decide.”  “Now tennis is his life and it is right for him to make his decisions for his life. … He must be free to explore, even beyond tennis.”

So when he was 10 or 11, Stefanos woke his father in the middle of the night and announced, “I want to become a tennis player.  I like the competition.  I like the challenge.”  And it was Stefanos who chose his one-handed backhand.  He used to switch between one- and two-handed.

The mind is the greatest weapon

So Stefanos is used to making his own choices.  It shows in the creativity he displays on court.  And it also means he’s in tennis on his own terms.  I’ve been impressed with his collected and placid demeanor during interviews in his run to what has been the biggest tournament of his life, last week in Toronto.  He was not overly excited, awestruck, or condescending.  Rather he seemed focused.  He was present to the now and what needs to be done next.

I’ve seen this before, this collectedness, in players like Pete Sampras and Rafa Nadal.  It’s self-assurance without arrogance, determination without hubris, consciousness of the path forward to a goal not yet reached.  It is perhaps Tsitsipas’ most impressive quality, this focus and solidity of mind.  Alexander Zverev has so far put up more impressive wins and numbers than Tsitsipas can match.  Both have complete games with no holes.  I don’t know if Tsitsipas’ talent is as deep as Zverev’s, but I like Stefanos’ head space.  And sometimes that can make all the difference.

Great update, Arvis!

Nice updates, Arvis!

4

(51 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

looks like there are 4 potential GQs in Montreal this week

5

(98 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Thanks Ad!
I have lots of low scores I'd like to get rid of too!!

6

(98 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Love the spreadsheet Ad!

On the "All Competitions" tab, my best result is listed as 4, however I was 2nd at RG 2016

7

(28 replies, posted in Wimbledon)

I had the same problem Dtrain

After 3 rounds of play, I have only one live match left in my women's bracket

9

(28 replies, posted in Wimbledon)

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/ … sp=sharing

10

(28 replies, posted in Wimbledon)

I'm happy to share the screen shots... but not sure how to post them here...

11

(28 replies, posted in Wimbledon)

Awesome job Arnie!
and thanks for the assist Tono!

actually, I took screen shots of my teams... always wise to do... so there can be no question that I did pick Nishikori instead of Edmund.  However, I also took Kvitova over Stephens in the final... much as I think Serena might actually be a better pick... honesty compels me to go with what's on the screen shot...

12

(51 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Thanks for keeping track, Milo!!

For WTA 'sHerfluvog I picked Flipkens to win... does that make me more or less unique than Arvis?

14

(102 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Apparently not, afterall. But thanks for the early encouragement!

15

(51 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

We just had five G15's completed in the Sharapova/SWilliams section of the 2018 French Open
Tono, HTS, Edu, TE, dwight

16

(8 replies, posted in French Open)

Love this thread!

I don't really have regrets about my picks - other than I shoulda picked all the QFists! (duh...) 

Obviously, Ostapenko was a waste of skin, but that was never in doubt - she won last year she could do it again.  My real dilemma came between Muguruza and KaPliskova.  I ended up going for the former champ because of proven track record even though KaP seemed to be in better recent form - sure glad I listened to myself for a change!

I almost always get burned on my unseeded picks going out in minus sixteen, so pretty pumped about Serena and Tsitispas this time around.  I knew Stef was likely going to get thrashed by Thiem in the second, but I was just so happy to see no -16's on my men's team, so I forgave him.

I vaguely contemplated Cuevas instead of The Fly... and Garcia looked like a good pick but with no place to go... really my women's team seemed like an obvious lock... shows how little I know!

17

(18 replies, posted in French Open)

Thanks for keeping this up to date Adunar!

Lexus-GF wrote:
Drivers wrote:

Very interesting so soon after their Davis Cup win.

Yes, although the team they won did not have its best players.
Here are the singles players who played for every team and its positions in the national ranking and ATP.


2018 Davis Cup World Group First round

Sam Querrey    national ranking 2    ATP ranking 12
John Isner        national ranking 3    ATP ranking 18
United States   combined national 5 combined ATP 30    Won

Albert Ramos Viñolas    3    21
Roberto Bautista Agut    4    23
Spain    7    44    Won

Adrian Mannarino    3    25
Richard Gasquet    4    33
(1) France    7    58    Won

Alexander Zverev    1    5
Jan-Lennard Struff    4    58
Germany    5    63    Won

Fabio Fognini    1    22
Andreas Seppi    3    77
(8) Italy    4    99    Won

David Goffin    1    7
Ruben Bemelmans    3    121
(2) Belgium    4    128    Won

Denis Shapovalov    2    48
Vasek Pospisil    3    85
Canada    5    133    Lost

Yūichi Sugita    2    41
Taro Daniel    3    100
Japan    5    141    Lost

Nick Kyrgios    1    14
Alex de Minaur    5    139
(6) Australia    6    153    Lost

Dušan Lajović    4    84
Laslo Đere    5    88
(7) Serbia    9    172    Lost

Borna Ćorić    2    47
Viktor Galović    4    181
(4) Croatia    6    228    Won

Cameron Norrie    3    114
Liam Broady    4    165
(3) Great Britain    7    279    Lost

Márton Fucsovics    1    62
Attila Balázs    2    227
Hungary    3    289    Lost

Mikhail Kukushkin    1    73
Dmitry Popko    4    257
Kazakhstan    5    330    Won

Robin Haase    1    42
Thiemo de Bakker    4    356
Netherlands    5    398    Lost

Henri Laaksonen    3    124
Adrian Bodmer    5    483
(5) Switzerland    8    607    Lost

All the teams with better combined ATP rank won, except Croatia (228) that won to Canada (133).
A recognition to Hungary, Italy and Belgium, for being the only ones that assisted with its players #1 and #2 or #1 and #3.

Love these stats!
hate the results...

19

(102 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Shoot me now... down 3 tournaments to start the season, and 3 picks in Doha...  I need a hand maiden to take the fall for this disaster

20

(81 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

So it appears I missed the first 3 tournaments.  I nice handicap for me. Beware of big Tenedab, perhaps he is not as forgiving as I am.

Very cool!

Oh wow, thanks for doing this Tono!

23

(47 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Oh I see, missed that about the top 8...

24

(47 replies, posted in Other Tournaments)

Looks great!
It seems there are a few yoda members missing?  How do we determine who is in or out?
I think Canada is closer to the US than Iceland, so perhaps Arvis and I should be switched?

25

(93 replies, posted in Australian Open)

Arvis wrote:

Dwight's Men's Bracket here is UNBELIEVABLE so far!!  He even got Schwartzman and PCB right.  He's got a massive lead for this point in the comp.

It was nice while it lasted... now that the Dimitrov chicken has come home to roost... smile